St. Mary's Falls hike photos

St. Mary's Falls hike photos

Photos taken on the trail to St. Mary's falls west of Colorado Springs, June 21, 2011.

Copyright (c) 2011, Sandra J. Loosemore. Photos are provided for personal viewing only; no other use is permitted without prior written consent.

This hike starts from the same North Cheyenne Canyon trailhead as the Seven Bridges hike I did 3 weeks earlier. Here's a shot from the parking lot of where I'm headed -- that rocky peak on the skyline across the canyon is Stove Mountain, and the falls are just below its summit.

To get there, you first have to contour around the canyon on the former road/railroad grade.

The yuccas along the road are in full bloom now.

Closeup of the yucca flowers.

These yellow flowers are "many-flowered puccoon" (Lithospermum multiflorum). They look a lot like penstemons, but they're not; they're in the borage family instead. They were growing in clumps with stalks a foot or more tall.

Another shot of the yellow many-flowered puccoons.
Wild geraniums.

Closeup of geranium flowers.

Remains of an evening primrose. The flowers on these shrivel up fast in the morning sun.

Lots of pink wild roses along the trail.

More roses.

The road has crossed the creek and is climbing up gradually on the other side of the canyon.

Here's some shrubby potentilla that was growing alongside the road.

This strange-looking stalk is a green gentian, aka "deer ears". This is a tall plant, 3' high or so.

Closeup of the gentian flowers and spiky leaves.

Even more closeup on the flowers, which really are green.

This is why the road is closed to traffic -- a partially collapsed tunnel. There's now a foot/bike trail that detours around and over the tunnel.

Looking back, up the canyon, from the tunnel detour.

Here's the view in the other direction, eastwards towards the city.

And, here's the continuation of the road on the other side of the tunnel.

The trail to the falls splits off at the top of the tunnel detour. When you reach this point you can already hear the sound of bubbling water over on the left side of the trail, although Buffalo Creek is far below the trail at this point.

Here's some sedum growing beside the trail. I've had some of this as a garden plant before, but not with such spectacular flower stalks!

Eventually the trail meets up with the creek. Here are some shooting stars growing right along the bank.

Chokecherry growing in a shady part of the trail.

It's pretty flat in this section, so that the creek has formed a shady wetland. It's a little unexpected to find ferns in the desert.

Creek and trail, still in the flat section.

As the trail begins to climb, you hear rushing water sounds over on the left again, and here's a small waterfall, about 4 feet high.

Big patch of blazing stars next to the waterfall.

These pretty white flowers have the odd name of "Northern Bedstraw".

And, another weird name, this is "Rocky Mountain Ninebark". From the flowers, you can tell it's clearly a member of the apple/plum/cherry family.

Now the trail starts climbing seriously, and Stove Mountain comes back into view. The falls are in the saddle on the right side of the mountain.

As best as I can tell, these are waxflower blossoms (Jamesia americana). Although the flowers look similar to apple/plum/cherry, it's actually in the hydrangea family.

Blue penstemons along the trail.

More of the yellow puccoon flowers.

Still chugging uphill towards Stove Mountain. Buffalo Creek is far below on the left at this point in the trail.

Don't be fooled by the "St Mary's Falls 0.2" sign here at the base of the switchbacks. It's at least twice that far!

As you climb the switchback out of the canyon, you start getting great views eastward towards the city.

Zoom view from the end of the switchback.

Turning the switchback, Stove Mountain now looms directly ahead.

Almost there!

Right up under the mountain now. You can hear the falls up ahead, but you can't see them yet through the trees.

Turning a corner on the trail, the first thing I noticed was all the flowers -- these are "Boulder Raspberry" bushes, more like roses than true raspberries.

Then I looked up a little higher and saw the falls beyond.

At the base of the falls. They're supposed to be 300 feet high; note the trees for scale.

More of the profusion of boulder raspberry, roses, and red raspberry.

Pink wild roses growing next to the stream, along with some regular red raspberry bushes.

Foothills mertensia, growing in the rocks right in the creek bed.

More mertensia.

Still more mertensia, with boulder raspberry in the background.

Another shot of the falls, with more big clumps of the blue foothills mertensia. Here the trail is zig-zagging back and forth across the creek on log bridges.

Approaching the upper set of log bridges, you get an impressive view of the rock face along and above the falls on the other side.

View looking up from the last of the log bridges. It had rained a couple days before after a dry spell of about 3 weeks, so there's at least a little water in the falls, but certainly a lot less than there would have been during the spring rainy season.

Pool at the base of the falls.

Big patch of potentilla on the side of the creek here.

Still more of the boulder raspberry flowers.

More of the waxflowers.

The trail ends here, with some log benches to sit on and admire the surroundings. Lest you think about scrambling up the rocks beside the falls to get a better look, there's also this memorial to someone who died doing just that.

Fabulous views to the east from the end of the trail.

We're high enough here (about 8800 feet) to see over the ridge to downtown Colorado Springs.

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